A growing number of students are 'going global' in a bid to gain cultural fluency, build networks and learn how to work in differing cultural environments. But, while there has been a modest increase in the number of what the British Council calls 'mobile students', in the past few years, the number of outbound students from Australia, Britain and the United States is still much smaller than those inbound to the three key English-speaking countries. 'There is a real risk that the competitive position of these countries will be damaged by their limited participation in outward mobility, especially when their graduates find themselves competing not only against each other, but also against highly qualified graduates from other countries,' the British Council believes. Sharri Holroyd and Gareth Lewis are two of the dozens of British students studying in Hong Kong at local universities under the student abroad scheme. They took part in a student forum which reported back to the main Going Global conference. Holroyd, from York, northern England, is studying international relations and education as a joint honours at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Lewis is studying modern history with economics at the University of Manchester in England. 'Spending part of my degree studying abroad seemed to be a natural part of my studies,' Holroyd said. 'Studying abroad not only enables me to gain an insight into another country's educational policies and practice, and improve my knowledge and employability in this area, but it also enables me to experience firsthand another culture and make international friends.' Holroyd believes that living in another country can open a student's eyes to the many diverse opportunities that are available to them that they might not be aware of if they stayed home. 'In today's rapidly globalising world, students have to prove they are adaptable and flexible in every situation, and that includes being willing and able to work effectively in more than just your home country,' Holroyd said. 'Study abroad or student mobility [schemes] attempt to demonstrate this skill.' But there are also benefits for the institutions taking part. 'Not only does the home institution become more globally recognised, the students who choose not to study abroad benefit from having the opportunity to meet and make friends with international students who are visiting their institution.' Lewis decided to take part in the study abroad scheme in Hong Kong because of the sharper contrast to his own experiences. 'It seemed to me that taking an obvious exchange choice like the US or Australia would be an expensive waste of time and money, as I see the key idea behind studying abroad is to immerse oneself in an entirely unfamiliar culture in order to gain life experiences and make lifelong [and global] friends that it would have been impossible to do at my home university,' Lewis said. If home institutions try to 'sell' the study abroad experience to students as a way of increasing career prospects upon graduation, that was not the primary reason why Lewis decided to take part. 'Manchester's programme has given me a very cheap and easy way to experience another culture for six months and make new friends who can help me gain a greater affection for the city and culture where I've chosen to live,' Lewis said. 'I've benefited from the Cantonese and Mandarin lessons offered by HKU [the University of Hong Kong]. Especially as Cantonese is not a language which Manchester offers. Living in Hong Kong every day has made language learning gratifyingly fast -even if my tones are largely made up on the spot. 'But more than this, I have experienced a family Chinese New Year and spent festivals and weekends with local friends who have given me a sympathetic insight into Hong Kong life beyond the glitzy 'capitalism on speed' image most of the world sees.' One of the key challenges of study abroad schemes is funding. 'Many students just don't have the money to pay for flights and then sustain themselves in another country,' Holroyd said. 'My friends and I study full-time, but also have part-time jobs to help make ends meet. When you study abroad that income stops. 'All students from England are studying on loans which will need to be repaid when they graduate, so many just see study abroad as too expensive and don't give it a second thought.' But what is stopping students from venturing aboard to study? 'There are some students that would like to come, but they just don't have the confidence to do it,' Holroyd said. 'Many worry that they might mess up their degree if they go to another institution, where they may not understand the lectures as clearly or keep up with the work in a different environment. Many also worry about credit transfer as some universities have different scoring systems, which don't transfer well.' One of the biggest obstacles to student mobility, Lewis believes, is the lack of information. 'Accurate and detailed information about foreign universities, the process of going abroad and the benefits to the exchange student of investing their time in going abroad [is needed],' he said. 'But not only this. There is in the UK a distinct lack of internationalism at educational institutions before university. 'British students are offered at GCSE level a narrow range of languages and suffer from a limited world perspective in other subjects ... Making other cultures familiar to people from an early age and following that up with detailed information at a university level can really help to remove fears and reluctance about studying in a different country.'